You’re at a party Friday night. Talking with friends or people from one of your classes. “What about them?” your friend asks, trying to point from behind their drink. “They’re cute,” you answer. You point at the person a few feet behind them. “They’re cute too,” you say. “Wait,” your friend says. You feel the pull of nerves in your stomach. “You’re …” You shrug.
“I’m attracted to more than one gender.” “Oh, okay cool. Everyone experiments in college, right?”
Although, in a heteronormative society, no self-identifying member of the LGBTQ community can escape bigotry, bisexual and pansexual indiviuduals face distinctive forms of devaluation within the LGBTQ community and beyond.
Accusations of not “really” being a part of the LGBTQ community, being a “traitor,” going through a phase or simply kidding themselves because they must identify one way or the other pervade the bi and pan experience.
College can be a particularly challenging time. It’s a time of change, self discovery, all of those platitudes, but sometimes this is unfairly extended to sexuality. “Experimenting” with people of the same gender identity is considered part of the college experience. It’s a phase, a trial period that everyone is assumed to grow out of or into, realizing that they’re really attracted to one gender and one alone.
Of course, sexuality is fluid — who you’re attracted to can change over time, you can explore and see how you identify. The trouble occurs when it’s assumed that anyone who is attracted to more than one gender can only be experimenting, that their
attraction will change and their identity as bisexual or pansexual is not valid. This tendency to delegitimize bi and pan identities in all areas of life, glossing over nuance for simple polarity, is referred to as bisexual and pansexual erasure.
In this forum, we asked contributors to discuss bi and pan phobia and erasure as they operate within the UT community. In her piece, English senior Alyssa Jingling discusses our culture’s obsession with polarity, encouraging students to embrace and validate
sexual fluidity instead.
Graduate student Brittany Sodic discusses her experience navigating queer and educational spaces as a bisexual woman.
As always, if you have any thoughts on thistopic, or any other, please feel free to reach out to us